Niles school buildings in need of major repair

Published 3:02 pm Friday, February 4, 2005

By By ERIN VER BERKMOES / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The report is in and the Niles Community Schools district and it isn't pretty.
The architectural firm of Tower Pinkster Titus Associates of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, hired by Niles Community Schools to complete a study on the condition of the districts facilities, has completed its work.
According to the firm's report, the buildings have been well maintained, but officials with the firm said they rarely see a school district with all old buildings. And old buildings come with significant need.
The good news is, while all of the buildings in the district have been identified as needing major remodeling, all are safe enough to remain in use - for now.
Tower Pinkster Titus Associates, conducted its study of all of the buildings in the Niles school district over a three-day period during the students' winter break, which allowed them full access, to get a good look at everything, school officials said.
Steve Hoeksma of Tower Pinkster Titus Associates said, "We found pretty consistent things from building to building.
Single-pane, non-thermal windows in metal frames have also been identified as a problem in Niles school buildings. Also noted, is that there are quite a few parking and traffic flow problems at the buildings and the buildings are not up to today's handicapped standards in terms of rest rooms, elevators and entrances.
The firm also identified technology issues in each of the buildings, which it described as in serious need of updating.
The district has gone with the band-aid approach to fixing things over the past 30 to 40 years "and you can only go with that type of approach for so long," he said.
With the completion of this report, the Niles Community Schools Board of Education plans a series of community forums to discuss its findings.
The series of forums will be held over the next several months, with the first one scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Ballard Elementary School Cafeteria.
The second and third meetings will take place on Wednesday, March 16, and Wednesday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in the Niles High School cafeteria.
The forums will be conducted by representatives from Tower Pinkster Titus Associates and will last about two hours.
The firm will also be conducting small group meeting with the faculty and staff of each of the buildings to see what they feel should be improved in their buildings.
After the meetings have taken place and all of the information received has been taken into account, the firm will issue one final report with recommendations to the Niles school board.
If anyone in the community is unable to attend any of the meetings and has a comment they would like to make, they may put it in writing and submit it to Superintendent Doug Law at 111 Spruce Street, Niles, MI 49120.